Flight of the Eagle - Chapter 1

J. Krishnamurti Lecture on freedom and fear


For most of us, freedom is an idea and not an actuality. When we talk about freedom, we want to be free outwardly, to do what we like, to travel, to be free to express ourselves in different ways, free to think what we like. The outward expression of freedom seems to be extraordinarily important, especially in countries where there is tyranny, dictatorship; and in those countries where outward freedom is possible one seeks more and more pleasure, more and more possessions.

If we are to inquire deeply into what freedom implies, to be inwardly, completely and totally free - which then expresses itself outwardly in society, in relationship - then we must ask, it seems to me, whether the human mind, heavily conditioned as it is, can ever be free at all. Must it always live and function within the frontiers of its own conditioning, so that there is no possibility of freedom at all? One sees that the mind, verbally understanding that there is no freedom here on this earth, inwardly or outwardly, then begins to invent freedom in another world, a future liberation, heaven and so on.

Put aside all theoretical, ideological, concepts of freedom so that we can inquire whether our minds, yours and mine, can ever be actually free, free from dependence, free from fear, anxiety, and free from the innumerable problems, both the conscious as well as those at the deeper layers of the unconscious. Can there be complete psychological freedom, so that the human mind can come upon something which is not of time, which is not put together by thought, yet which is not an escape from the actual realities of daily existence? Unless the human mind is inwardly, psychologically, totally free it is not possible to see what is true, to see if there is a reality not invented by fear, not shaped by the society or the culture in which we live, and which is not an escape from the daily monotony, with its boredom, loneliness, despair and anxiety. To find out if there is actually such freedom one must be aware of one's own conditioning, of the problems, of the monotonous shallowness, emptiness, insufficiency of one's daily life, and above all one must be aware of fear. One must be aware of oneself neither introspectively nor analytically, but actually be aware of oneself as one is and see if it is at all possible to be entirely free of all those issues that seem to clog the mind.

To explore, as we are going to do, there must be freedom, not at the end, but right at the beginning. Unless one is free one cannot explore, investigate or examine. To look deeply there needs to be, not only freedom, but the discipline that is necessary to observe; freedom and discipline go together ( not that one must be disciplined in order to be free). We are using the word `discipline' not in the accepted, traditional sense, which is to conform, imitate, suppress, follow a set pattern; but rather as the root meaning of that word, which is `to learn.' Learning and freedom go together, freedom bringing its own discipline; not a discipline imposed by the mind in order to achieve a certain result. These two things are essential: freedom and the act of learning. One cannot learn about oneself unless one is free, free so that one can observe, not according to any pattern, formula or concept, but actually observe oneself as one is. That observation, that perception, that seeing, brings about its own discipline and learning; in that there is no conforming, imitation, suppression or control whatsoever - and in that there is great beauty.

Our minds are conditioned - that is an obvious fact - conditioned by a particular culture or society, influenced by various impressions, by the strains and stresses of relation- ships, by economic, climatic, educational factors, by religious conformity and so on. Our minds are trained to accept fear and to escape, if we can, from that fear, never being able to resolve, totally and completely, the whole nature and structure of fear. So our first question is: can the mind, so heavily burdened, resolve completely, not only its conditioning, but also its fears? Because it is fear that makes us accept conditioning.

Do not merely hear a lot of words and ideas - which are really of no value at all - but through the act of listening, observing your own states of mind, both verbally and nonverbally, simply inquire whether the mind can ever be free - not accepting fear, not escaping, not saying, `I must develop courage, resistance,' but actually being fully aware of the fear in which one is trapped. Unless one is free from this quality of fear one cannot see very clearly, deeply; and obviously, when there is fear there is no love.

So, can the mind actually ever be free of fear? That seems to me to be - for any person who is at all serious - one of the most primary and essential questions which must be asked and which must be resolved. There are physical fears and psychological fears. The physical fears of pain and the psychological fears as memory of having had pain in the past, and the idea of the repetition of that pain in the future; also, the fears of old age, death, the fears of physical insecurity, the fears of the uncertainty of tomorrow, the fears of not being able to be a great success, not being able to achieve - of not being somebody in this rather ugly world; the fears of destruction, the fears of loneliness, not being able to love or be loved, and so on; the conscious fears as well as the unconscious fears. Can the mind be free, totally, of all this? If the mind says it cannot, then it has made itself incapable, it has distorted itself and is incapable of perception, of understanding; incapable of being completely silent, quiet; it is like a mind in the dark, seeking light and never finding it, and therefore inventing a `light' of words, concepts, theories. How is a mind which is so heavily burdened with fear, with all its conditioning, ever to be free of it? Or must we accept fear as an inevitable thing of life? - and most of us do accept it, put up with it. What shall we do? How shall I, the human being, you as the human being, be rid of this fear? - not be rid of a particular fear, but of the total fear, the whole nature and structure of fear?

What is fear? (Don't accept, if I may suggest, what the speaker is saying; the speaker has no authority whatsoever, he is not a teacher, he is not a guru; because if he is a teacher then you are the follower and if you are the follower you destroy yourself as well as the teacher.) We are trying to find out what is the truth of this question of fear so completely that the mind is never afraid, therefore free of all dependence on another, inwardly, psychologically. The beauty of freedom is that you do not leave a mark. The eagle in its flight does not leave a mark; the scientist does. Inquiring into this question of freedom there must be, not only the scientific observation, but also the flight of the eagle that does not leave a mark at all; both are required; there must be both the verbal explanation and the nonverbal perception - for the description is never the actuality that is described; the explanation is obviously never the thing that is explained; the word is never the thing.

If all this is very clear then we can proceed; we can find out for ourselves - not through the speaker, not through his words, not through his ideas or thoughts - whether the mind can be completely free from fear.

The first part is not an introduction; if you have not heard it clearly and understood it, you cannot go on to the next.

To inquire there must be freedom to look; there must be freedom from prejudice, from conclusions, concepts, ideals, prejudices, so that you can observe actually for yourself what

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fear at all? That is: you can observe very, very closely, intimately, what fear is only when the `observer' is the `observed.' We are going to go into that. So what is fear? How does it come about? The obvious physical fears can be understood, like the physical dangers, to which there is instant response; they are fairly easy to understand; we need not go into them too much. But we are talking about psychological fears; how do these psychological fears arise? What is their origin? - that is the issue. There is the fear of something that happened yesterday; the fear of something that might happen later on today or tomorrow. There is the fear of what we have known, and there is the fear of the unknown, which is tomorrow. One can see for oneself very clearly that fear arises through the structure of thought - through thinking about that which happened yesterday of which one is afraid, or through thinking about the future - right? Thought breeds fear - doesn't it? Please let us be quite sure; do not accept what the speaker is saying; be absolutely sure for yourself, as to whether thought is the origin of fear. Thinking about the pain, the psychological pain that one had some time ago and not wanting it repeated, not wanting to have that thing recalled, thinking about all this breeds fear. Can we go on from there? Unless we see this very clearly we will not be able to go any further. Thought, thinking about an incident, an experience, a state, in which there has been a disturbance, danger, grief or pain, brings about fear. And thought, having established a certain security, psychologically, does not want that security to be disturbed; any disturbance is a danger and therefore there is fear.

Thought is responsible for fear; also, thought is responsible for pleasure. One has had a happy experience; thought thinks about it and wants it perpetuated; when that is not possible there is a resistance, anger, despair and fear. So thought is responsible for fear as well as pleasure - isn't it? This is not a verbal conclusion; this is not a formula for avoiding fear. That is, where there is pleasure there is pain and fear perpetuated by thought; pleasure goes with pain, the two are indivisible, and thought is responsible for both. If there were no tomorrow, no next moment, about which to think in terms of either fear or pleasure, then neither would exist. Shall we go on from there? Is it an actuality, not as an idea, but a thing that you yourself have discovered and which is therefore real, so you can say, `I've found out that thought breeds both pleasure and fear'? You have had sexual enjoyment, pleasure; later you think about it in the imagery, the pictures of thinking, and the very thinking about it gives strength to that pleasure which is now in the imagery of thought, and when that is thwarted there is pain, anxiety, fear, jealousy, annoyance, anger, brutality. And we are not saying that you must not have pleasure.

Bliss is not pleasure; ecstasy is not brought about by thought; it is an entirely different thing. You can come upon bliss or ecstasy only when you understand the nature of thought - which breeds both pleasure and fear.

So the question arises: can one stop thought? If thought breeds fear and pleasure - for where there is pleasure there must be pain, which is fairly obvious - then one asks oneself: can thought come to an end? - which does not mean the ending of the perception of beauty, the enjoyment of beauty. It is like seeing the beauty of a cloud or a tree and enjoying it totally, completely, fully; but when thought seeks to have that same experience tomorrow, that same delight that it had yesterday seeing that cloud, that tree, that flower, the face of that beautiful person, then it invites disappointment, pain, fear and pleasure.

So can thought come to an end? Or is that a wrong question altogether? It is a wrong question because we want to experience an ecstasy, a bliss, which is not pleasure. By ending thought we hope we shall come upon something which is immense, which is not the product of pleasure and fear. What place has thought in life? - not, how is thought to be ended? What is the relationship of thought to action and to inaction? What is the relationship of thought to action where action is necessary? Why, when there is complete enjoyment of beauty, does thought come into existence at all? - for if it did not then it would not be carried over to tomorrow. I want to find out - when there is complete enjoyment of the beauty of a mountain, of a beautiful face, a sheet of water - why thought should come there and give a twist to it and say, `I must have that pleasure again tomorrow.' I have to find out what the relationship of thought is in action; and to find out if thought need interfere when there is no need of thought at all. I see a beautiful tree, without a single leaf, against the sky, it is extraordinarily beautiful and that is enough - finished. Why should thought come in and say, `I must have that same delight tomorrow'? And I also see that thought must operate in action. Skill in action is also skill in thought. So, what is the actual relationship between thought and action? As it is, our action is based on concepts, on ideas. I have an idea or concept of what should be done and what is done is approximation to that concept, idea, to that ideal. So there is a division between action and the concept, the ideal, the `should be; in this division there is conflict. Any division, psychological division, must breed conflict. I am asking myself, 'What is the relationship of thought in action?" If there is division between the action and the idea then action is incomplete. Is there an action in which thought sees something instantly and acts immediately so that there is not an idea, an ideology to be acted on separately? Is there an action in which the very seeing is the action - in which the very thinking is the action? I see that thought breeds fear and pleasure; I see that where there is pleasure there is pain and therefore resistance to pain. I see that very clearly; the seeing of it is the immediate action; in the seeing of it is involved thought, logic and thinking very clearly; yet the seeing of it is instantaneous and the action is instantaneous - therefore there is freedom from it.

Are we communicating with each other? Go slowly, it is quite difficult. Please do not say, so easily, `yes.' If you say 'yes,' then when you leave the hall, you must be free of fear. Your saying `yes' is merely an assertion that you have understood verbally, intellectually - which is nothing at all. You and I are here this morning investigating the question of fear and when you leave the hall there must be complete freedom from it. That means you are a free human being, a different human being, totally transformed - not tomorrow, but now; you see very clearly that thought breeds fear and pleasure; you see that all our values are based on fear and pleasure - moral, ethical, social, religious, spiritual. If you perceive the truth of it - and to see the truth of it you have to be extraordinarily aware, logically, healthily, sanely observing every movement of thought - then that very perception is total action and therefore when you leave you are completely out of it - otherwise you will say, `How am I to be free of fear, tomorrow?,

Thought must operate in action. When you have to go to your house you must think; or to catch a bus, train, go to the office, thought then operates efficiently, objectively, nonpersonally, nonemotionally; that thought is vital. But when thought carries on that experience that you have had, carries it on through memory into the future, then such action is incomplete, therefore there is a form of resistance and so on.

Then we can go on to the next question. Let us put it this way: what is the origin of thought, and who is the thinker? One can see that thought is the response of knowledge, experience, as accumulated memory, the background from which there is a response of thought to any challenge; if you are asked where you live there is instant response. Memory, experience, knowledge is the background, is that from which thought comes. So thought is never new; thought is always old; thought can never be free, because it is tied to the past and therefore it can never see anything new. When I understand that, very clearly, the mind becomes quiet. Life is a movement, a constant movement in relationship; and thought, trying to capture that movement in terms of the past, as memory, is afraid of life.

Seeing all this, seeing that freedom is necessary to examine - and to examine very clearly there must be the discipline of learning and not of suppression and imitation - seeing how the mind is conditioned by society, by the past, seeing that all thought springing from the brain is old and therefore incapable of understanding anything new, then the mind becomes completely quiet - not controlled, not shaped to be quiet. There is no system or method - it does not matter whether it is Zen from japan, or a system from India - to make the mind quiet; that is the most stupid thing for the mind to do: to discipline itself to be quiet. Now seeing all that - actually seeing it, not as something theoretical - then there is an action from that perception; that very perception is the action of liberation from fear. So, on the occasion of any fear arising, there is immediate perception and the ending of it.

What is love? For most of us it is pleasure and hence fear; that is what we call love. When there is the understanding of fear and pleasure, then what is love? And `who' is going to answer this question? - the speaker, the priest, the book? Is some outside agency going to tell us we are doing marvellously well, carry on? Or, is it that having examined, observed, seen non-analytically, the whole structure and nature of pleasure, fear, pain, we find that the `observer,' the `thinker' is part of thought. if there is no thinking there is no 'thinker,' the two are inseparable; the thinker is the thought. There is a beauty and subtlety in seeing that. And where then is the mind that started to inquire into this question of fear? - you understand? What is the state of the mind now that it has gone through all this? Is it the same as it was before it came to this state. It has seen this thing very intimately, it has seen the nature of this thing called thought, fear and pleasure, it has seen all that; what is its actual state now? Obviously nobody can answer that except yourself; if you have actually gone into it, you will see that it has become completely transformed.

Questioner: ( Inaudible)

Krishnamurti: It is one of the easiest things to ask a question. Probably some of us have been thinking what our question will be while the speaker was going on. We are more concerned with our question than with listening. One has to ask questions of oneself, not only here but everywhere. To ask the `right' question is far more important than to receive the answer. The solution of a problem lies in the understanding of the problem; the answer is not outside the problem, it is in the problem. One cannot look at the problem very clearly if one is concerned with the answer, with the solution. Most of us are so eager to resolve the problem without looking into it - and to look into one has to have energy, intensity, a passion; not indolence and laziness as most of us have - we would rather somebody else solved it. There is nobody who is going to solve any of our problems, either political, religious or psychological. One has to have a great deal of vitality and passion, intensity, to look at and to observe the problem and then, as you observe, the answer is there very clearly.

This does not mean that you must not ask questions; on the contrary you must ask questions; you must doubt everything everybody has said, including the speaker.

Questioner: Is there a danger of introspection in looking into personal problems?

Krishnamurti: Why shouldn't there be danger? To cross the street there is a danger. Do you mean to say, we must not look because it is dangerous to look? I remember once - if I may repeat an incident - a very rich man came to see us and he said, `I am very, very serious and concerned with what you are talking about and I want to resolve all my `so and so' you know the nonsense that people talk about. I said, 'All right, Sir, let us go into it,' and we talked. He came several times, and after the second week he came to me and he said, `I am having dreadful dreams, frightening dreams, I seem to see everything around me disappearing, all kinds of things go; and then he said, `Probably this is the result of my inquiry into myself and I see the danger of it; after that he did not come any more.

We all want to be safe; we all want to be secure in our petty little world, the world of `well established order' which is disorder, the world of our particular relationships, which we do not want to be disturbed - the relationship between wife and husband in which they hold together tight, in which there is misery, distrust, fear, in which there is danger, jealousy, anger, domination.

There is a way of looking into ourselves without fear, without danger; it is to look without any condemnation, without any justification, just to look, not to interpret, not to judge, not to evaluate. To do that the mind must be eager to learn in its observation of what actually is. What is the danger in `what is'? Human beings are violent; that is actually `what is; and the danger they have brought about in this world is the result of this violence, it is the outcome of fear. What is there dangerous about observing it and trying to completely eradicate that fear? - that we may bring about a different society, different values? There is a great beauty in observation, in seeing things as they are, psychologically, inwardly; which does not mean that one accepts things as they are; which does not mean that one rejects or wants to do something about `what is; the very perception of `what is' brings about its own mutation. But one must know the art of `looking' and the art of `looking' is never the introspective art, or the analytical art, but just observing without any choice. Questioner: Is there not spontaneous fear?

Krishnamurti: Would you call that fear? When you know fire burns, when you see a precipice, is it fear to jump away from it? When you see a wild animal, a snake, to withdraw, is that fear? - or is it intelligence? That intelligence may be the result of conditioning, because you have been conditioned to the dangers of a precipice, for if you were not you could fall and that would be the end. Your intelligence tells you to be careful; is that intelligence fear? But is it intelligence that operates when we divide ourselves into nationalities, into religious groups? - when we make this division between you and me, we and they, is that intelligence? That which is in operation in such division, which brings about danger, which divides people, which brings war, is that intelligence operating or is it fear? There it is fear, not intelligence. In other words we have fragmented ourselves; part of us acts, where necessary, intelligently, as in avoiding a precipice, or a bus going by; but we are not intelligent enough to see the dangers of nationalism, the dangers of division between people. So one part of us - a very small part of us - is intelligent, the rest of us is not. Where there is fragmentation there must be conflict, there must be misery; the very essence of conflict is the division, the contradiction in us. That contradiction is not to be integrated. it is one of our peculiar idiosyncrasies that we must integrate ourselves. I do not know what it really means. Who is it that is going to integrate the two divided, opposed, natures? For is not the integrator himself part of that division? But when one sees the totality of it, when one has the perception of it, without any choice - there is no division.

Questioner: Is there any difference between correct thought and correct action?

Krishnamurti: When you use that word `correct', between thought and action, then that `correct' action is `incorrect' action - isn't it? When you use that word `correct' you have already an idea of what is correct. When you have an idea of what is `correct' it is `incorrect,' because that `correct' is based on your prejudice, on your conditioning, on your fear, on your culture, on your society, on your own particular idiosyncrasies, fears, religious sanctions and so on. You have the norm, the pattern: that very pattern is in itself incorrect, is immoral. The social morality is immoral. Do you agree to that? If you do, then you have rejected social morality, which means greed, envy, ambition, nationality, the worship of class, all the rest of it. But have you, when you say `yes'? Social morality is immoral - do you really mean it? - or is it just a lot of words? Sir, to be really moral, virtuous, is one of the most extraordinary things in life; and that morality has nothing whatsoever to do with social, environmental behaviour. One must be free, to be really virtuous, and you are not free if you follow the social morality of greed, envy, competition, worship of success - you know all those things that are put forward by the church and by society as being moral.

Questioner: Do we have to wait for this to happen or is there some discipline we can use?

Krishnamurti: Must we have a discipline to realize that the very seeing is action? Must we?

Questioner: Would you talk about the quiet mind - is it the result of discipline? Or is it not?

Krishnamurti: Sir, look: a soldier on the parade ground, he is very quiet, with a straight back, holding the rifle very exactly; he is drilled, drilled day after day, day after day; any freedom is destroyed for him. He is very quiet; but is that quietness? Or when a child is absorbed in a toy, is that quietness? - remove the toy and the toy becomes what he is. So, will discipline (do understand this, Sir, once and for all, it is so simple) will discipline bring about quietness? It may bring about dullness, a state of stagnancy, but does it bring about quietness in the sense, intensely active, yet quiet?

Questioner: Sir, what do you want us people here in this world to do?

Krishnamurti: Very simple, Sir: I don't want anything. That's first. Second: live, live in this world. This world is so marvellously beautiful. It is our world, our earth to live upon, but we do not live, we are narrow, we are separate, we are anxious, we are frightened human beings, and therefore we do not live, we have no relationship, we are isolated, despairing human beings. We do not know what it means to live in that ecstatic, blissful sense. I say one can live that way only when one knows how to be free from all the stupidities of one's life. To be free from them is only possible in becoming aware of one's relationship, not only with human beings, but with ideas, with nature, with everything. In that relationship one discovers what one is, one's fear, anxiety, despair, loneliness, one's utter lack of love. One is full of theories, words, knowledge of what other people have said; one knows nothing about oneself, and therefore one does not know how to live.

Questioner: How do you explain different levels of consciousness in terms of the human brain? The brain seems to be a physical affair, the mind does not seem to be a physical affair. In addition, the mind seems to have a conscious part and an unconscious part. How can we see with any clarity in all these different ideas?

Krishnamurti: What is the difference between the mind and the brain; is that it, Sir? The actual physical brain, which is the result of the past, which is the outcome of evolution, of many thousand yesterdays, with all its memories and knowledge and experience, is not that brain part of the total mind? - the mind in which there is a conscious level and the unconscious level. The physical as well as the nonphysical, the psychological, isn't all that one whole? - is it not we who have divided it as the conscious and unconscious, the brain and the not-brain? Can we not look at the whole thing as a totality, nonfragmented?

Is the unconscious so very different from the conscious? Or is it not part of the totality, but we have divided it? From that arises the question: how is the conscious mind to be aware of the unconscious? Can the positive which is the operative - the thing that is working all day - can that observe the unconscious?

I do not know if we have time to go into this. Are you not tired? Please, sirs, do not reduce this to an entertainment, as one can, sitting in a nice warm room, listening to some voice. We are dealing with very serious things, and if you have worked, as one should have, then you must be tired. The brain cannot take more than a certain amount, and to go into this question of the unconscious and the conscious requires a very sharp, clear mind to observe. I doubt very much if at the end of an hour and a half you are capable of it. So may we, if you agree, take up this question later?